The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 11
Enemy Is Left as a Test      [Judges 2.20–3.4]

  Scripture

20 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice;
21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:
22 That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.
23 Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.
1 Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;
2 Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;
3 Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.
4 And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

Commentary

Because Israel persisted in disobedience, God decided to allow the nations to remain in the land as the means to [2]chastise His people. Punishment for disobedience was not the only reason the Lord did not drive out all the Canaanites. He left them to test Israel and to train succeeding generations for war. We can gain insight from this as to why the Lord allows believers to go through problems and trials. He wants to know if “they will keep the ways of the LORD ... or not.”

20 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice;
21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:
22 That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.
23 Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.

After Joshua’s death, little was done for a long time against the Canaanites: Israel indulged them, and grew familiar with them, and therefore God would not drive them out any more. If they will have such inmates as these among them, let them deal with them, and see what will come of it. God chose their delusions, [1](Isa. 66:4 ). Thus men cherish and indulge their own corrupt appetites and passions, and, instead of mortifying them, they make provision for them, and therefore God justly leaves them to themselves under the power of their sins, which will be their ruin. So shall their doom be; they themselves have decided it.

As a result of continued apostasies, the anger of the LORD was expressed against them. Their transgressions were like fuel; and the displeasure of the Lord was like a fire about to kindle and consume that fuel. God’s just solution was to continue the rod of chastening  over them. Their sin was sparing the Canaanites, which was a violation of the covenant God had made with them and the commands he had given them.

There appeared to be no other way to induce this people to acknowledge the true God, other than by permitting them to fall into hardship and danger from which they could not be delivered except by his special providence. These words are spoken after the manner of men; and the metaphor is taken from the case of a master or father, who distrusts the fidelity or obedience of his servant or son, and places him in such circumstances that, by his good or evil conduct, he may justify his suspicions, or give him proofs of his fidelity.

I will not henceforth drive out. As a people, they never had personal courage, discipline, or toughness, sufficient enough to stand before their enemies: the advantages they gained came by way of the interference of God, on their behalf. They could count on God’s help as long as they were obedient; when they ceased to obey, his strong arm was no longer stretched out in their behalf; therefore their enemies continued to possess the land which God purposed to give them as their inheritance for ever.

The statement that through them I may prove Israel means that Israel’s failure to drive out the Canaanites was God’s reason for [2]chastening His people, but there was also the people’s growing participation in acts of idolatry and apostasy. The temptation to worship these false gods, carved from wood and stone, came from the remnants of the Canaanites who were left to prove Israel, whether they would keep the way of the Lord or not. God’s intention was not to know the Jews better, but that they might know themselves. It was to check out, whether they could resist the temptations of idolatry, which the Canaanites would lay before them. God had told them they could not, [3]Deu. 7:4 . But they thought they could. "Well,’’ said God, "I will try you;’’ and, what was the result of the trial? It was found that the tempters’ charms were far too strong for them. God has told us how deceitful and desperately wicked our hearts are, but we are not willing to believe it until we give in to temptation and find out that it is too true by sad experience. On the other hand, perhaps they would make a good use of the enticement to sin, which the remaining natives would give them, and the many troubles they would cause them, and would thereby be convinced of their sin and humbled for it, reformed, and driven to God and their duty, whether by continual alarms from them they would be kept in awe and made afraid of provoking God.

Without driving them out hastily—If God had expelled all the ancient inhabitants at once, we plainly see, from the subsequent conduct of the people, that they would soon have abandoned His worship, and in their prosperity forgotten their deliverer. He drove out at first as many as were necessary in order to afford the people, as they were then, a sufficiency of room to settle in; as the tribes increased in population, they were to extend themselves to the uttermost of their assigned borders, and expel all the remaining inhabitants. On these accounts God did not expel the aboriginal inhabitants hastily or at once; and thus gave the Israelites time to increase; and by continuing the ancient inhabitants, prevented the land from running into waste, and the wild beasts from multiplying; both of which must have infallibly taken place had God driven out all the old inhabitants at once, before the Israelites were sufficiently numerous to occupy all of the land.

THESE observations are important, as they contain the reason why God did not expel the Canaanites. God gave the Israelites a grant of the whole land, and promised to drive out their enemies from before them if they continued faithful. While they continued faithful, God did continue to fulfill his promise; their borders were enlarged, and their enemies fled before them. When they rebelled against the Lord, he abandoned them, and their enemies prevailed against them. Of this, their frequent lapses and miscarriages, with God's repeated interventions on their behalf, are ample evidence. One or two solitary instances might not be considered as sufficient proof; but by these numerous instances the fact is established. Each rebellion against God produced a consequent disaster in their affairs; each true humiliation was invariably followed by a special Divine intervention on their behalf. These afforded continual proof of God's being, providence, and grace. The contribution of our Lord is wondrous; and its effects, impressive and convincing. The people were not hastily put in possession of the Promised Land, because of their infidelity. Can the infidels contradict this statement? If not then their argument against Divine revelation, from "the failure of positive promises and oaths," falls to the ground. They have not only in this, but in all other respects, lost all their props.

"Helpless and prostrate all their system lies
Cursing its fate, and, as it curses, dies."

The relationship of this chapter to the statements in the book of Joshua that they had won a total and resounding victory over their enemies need not be seen as a contradiction, since Joshua 23:7 makes it clear that there were “nations that remain among you” with whom they were not to marry nor associate with their gods. The correlation of the two books makes it clear that the victory of Joshua was sudden and instantaneous and brought the land under the control of the Israelites. However, conquest was one thing and settlement another. In order to maintain supreme control of the land it would now be necessary for the Israelites to continually drive out their enemies from any encroachment into the territory that God had given them.
The Lord had made it very clear to the Jews that they were not to study “comparative religion” and get interested in the Pagan practices of the Canaanites [4](Deut. 7.1-11 ). God could have judged Israel for sparing the wicked Canaanite nations, but in His mercy He spared them because He had purposes for them to fulfill.
The spiritual theme at this point is obvious: the victory given by God must be maintained by its recipients. The pattern of Joshua-Judges serves as an excellent illustration of the conflicts of the Christian life. In Christ we have been guaranteed total victorious possession of “the land.” The inheritance of our salvation is assured; however, we must maintain our personal relationship to God by continually driving out our “enemies.” Therefore, separated and dedicated Christian living is necessary to maintain the victory which has been assured to us.

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[1] (Isa. 66.4) I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” God makes it clear that He no longer delights in the abominations of Israel’s empty ritual and animal sacrifice. Merely going through the outward form of ritual religion is nothing more than a series of delusions (ta˓alūl, vexations). Instead of answering the call of God to personal repentance and faith, they chose … evil.

 

[2] Chastening. The word chastening means “child training” and refers to the process God uses to mature us and make us more like Jesus Christ. He tests us to bring out the best in us, but Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us. If we persist in disobeying God, He will discipline us to bring us to submission. This is an act of love, a Father maturing a child and not a Judge punishing a criminal—“My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Prov. 3:11–12). All men sin and bring dishonor upon the Lord. Those who enjoy His great blessing will at times experience His chastening, for Yahweh corrects every son whom He receives (Heb 12:5–13). These times of chastening are a sign of both His displeasure and love. When He sends difficulties into the lives of His children, He is not to be regarded as a vindictive despot, but rather as a loving father who diligently corrects His children. Neither be weary of his correction. Man is born in sin and practices the art of sinning arduously before he meets the God of grace. Thus, the Lord’s hand of correction is often found upon us shepherding us away from sin. We must not weary of this hand upon us or despise its gentle and persistent presence, a presence that is always grounded in His faithfulness (I Cor 10:13). A humble submission is an essential addition to our growth in spiritual truth (I Pet 5:6).

[3] (Deut 7.4) For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

[4]  (Deut. 7.1-11) “When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: 3Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. 4For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. 5But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. 6For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 10And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. 11Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.

Chapter 3

1 Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;

We found out earlier that the Israelites had intermarried with the Canaanites, the Hittitites, the Amoritites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. They married into all the tribes, even though God had strictly forbidden it.

The nations that were left as a trial for Israel are listed in verse 3: five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mt. Lebanon.

We are told here what remained of the old inhabitants of Canaan. There were some of them that kept together in united bodies: The five lords of the Philistines, namely, Ashdod, Gaza, Askelon, Gath, and Ekron [5](1 Sam. 6:17 ). Three of these cities had been partly reduced by earlier battles; “Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof” (Jg. 1:18). But it seems the Philistines (probably with the help of the other two, which strengthened their confederacy with each other) recovered the possession of them. These cities gave the greatest trouble to Israel of any of the natives, especially in the latter times of the judges, and they were never quite reduced until David’s time. There was a particular nation called Canaanites, that kept their ground, along with the Sidonians, upon the coast of the great sea. And in the north the Hivites held much of Mount Lebanon which was a remote corner, in which perhaps they were supported by some of the neighboring states.
Those who were left to be proved were those Israelites that had not seen all the wars of Canaan.

2 Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;
3 Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.
4 And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

That…Israel might know, to teach them war. This was another reason why the Canaanites were left in the land; that the Israelites might not forget military discipline, but familiarize themselves with the use of arms, that they might always be able to defend themselves against their foes. Had they been faithful to God, they would have had no need of learning the art of war; but now arms became a sort of necessary substitute for that spiritual strength which had departed from them. Thus God in his judgment leaves one wicked nation to harass and torment another. Were all to turn to God, men need learn war no more.
The five lords of the Passover and other tribes mentioned in this passage were enemies of the Israelites. As we proceed through the Old Testament, these enemies will appear time and time again. They were indeed a thorn in the flesh of the nation Israel.

To know whether they would hearken. This would be the consequence of the Canaanites being left among them: if they should be faithful to God, their enemies would not be able to enslave them; should they be rebellious, the Lord would abandon them to their foes.

NOW THE FIRST CYCLE BEGINS: SIN (VV. 5–7); SERVITUDE (V. 8); SUPPLICATION (V. 9A); SALVATION (VV. 9B–11).

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[5] (1 Sam. 6.17) And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering unto the LORD; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Askelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one;

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